Animal Health Monitoring & Reporting
Animal care staff observe all animals in Research Animal Resources (RAR) facilities on a daily basis.
Each facility is also assigned a veterinary technician and clinical veterinarian. Veterinary staff make regular rounds through the facility to observe the animals.
Reporting animal health concerns
Animal health concerns are typically reported to the veterinary staff through an Animal Health Report card system. Serious or urgent health problems should be reported to the area veterinary technician by phone or pager, or to the on-call veterinarian via the emergency pager.
Phone and pager numbers are posted by the phones in all housing areas.
Animal health problems should not be reported by leaving a voicemail message or email with a veterinary technician or veterinarian. These messages may not be picked up soon enough to respond appropriately, especially in an emergency situation.
When an animal is experiencing a health problem, the veterinarian or veterinary technician will contact the investigator or their research staff to discuss the problem.
- Labs are encouraged to provide contact information for one or more people who are willing to be contacted on weekends and holidays in case of an animal emergency.
- If an animal health problem arises and the research staff cannot be contacted (and no other instructions have been provided), RAR veterinarians are required to use professional judgment on how to proceed. This may involve initiating treatment, palliative care, or euthanasia.
Mouse breeding programs sometimes result in situations where there are newborn pups whose dam has died. If the research staff cannot be contacted and have not left instructions on whether to attempt cross-fostering, RAR will euthanize the newborn litter.
Expected problems (part of the experimental procedure)
If a problem is expected as part of the experimental procedure, the nature of the problem must be documented in the Animal Care and Use Protocol. The experimental endpoint and clinical or other criteria for euthanasia of the animal must also be indicated. There must be a scientific justification for allowing an animal to experience unrelieved pain or distress.
If a problem unexpectedly occurs, the veterinary staff will discuss diagnosis and treatment options with laboratory personnel. Animal health problems must be treated or monitored until the animal meets criteria requiring euthanasia.
- RAR veterinary staff can perform treatments or research personnel may provide their own drugs and perform their own treatments under the direction of RAR veterinary staff. Research personnel may purchase drugs through RAR by contacting the area veterinary technician.
- RAR will monitor the progress of all animals and maintain a medical record of its observations and any treatments it performs.
- If an animal is not responding to treatment, the treatment plan will be re-assessed. Euthanasia may be requested.
- Treatment can be directed toward correcting the primary problem, or it may involve providing analgesia and/or supportive care until the animal recovers, is euthanized, or reaches the experimental endpoint.
- An animal should never be allowed to reach a moribund state or die spontaneously unless it is an approved part of the experiment.
Primary interventions are supportive care practices, treatments, and husbandry changes that may be performed at the discretion of the veterinary staff without prior approval from investigative staff. Investigators are not charged for primary interventions when performed as part of the initial assessment of a new animal health report.
Investigators may be granted exceptions from specific primary interventions with scientific justification at the discretion of the veterinarian. Primary interventions for mice and rats include:
- Separation of animals.
- Nail trims.
- Tooth trims.
- Ear tag removal.
- Environmental support which could include a heating pad, additional or alternate bedding or nesting material.
- Nutritional or hydration support of moist chow, chow on floor (in dish), diet gel, water bottle, SQ or IP fluids, or oral dextrose.
- Expression of superficial abscesses not requiring sedation.
- Cleaning/flushing of wounds or eyes with sterile saline or chlorhexidine.
- Application of non-medicated lubricant.
- Fluorescein staining.
The emergency veterinary pager number is posted by the phones in all housing areas.
There is always an RAR veterinarian on-call for animal health emergencies.
An emergency is any problem that cannot wait at least overnight (on weekdays) or until the beginning of the next week (on holidays/weekends). This can include facility problems that are endangering the animals’ health such as temperature or humidity extremes.